The Associated Press State & Local Wire

January 8, 2005, Saturday, BC cycle

Psychiatrist in botched Texas drowning case working on similar Colorado case

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 363 words


A psychiatrist who gave false testimony in the botched conviction of a Houston woman accused of drowning her children has been working with Colorado prosecutors on a similar case.
A Texas appeals court on Thursday overturned the murder convictions of Andrea Yates in the 2001 drownings of her children, citing the testimony of Park Dietz.
Dietz testified in that trial about an episode of the television program “Law & Order” where a woman was found innocent by reason of insanity for drowning her children. There was no such episode.
Long before the Texas case was reversed, Prowers County, Colo., prosecutors had hired Dietz to evaluate Rebekah Amaya, who pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the bathtub drownings of her daughter and infant son.
After his evaluation, Dietz told prosecutors he believed Amaya was insane at the time of the drownings. Doctors at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo also concluded she had mental problems, and the judge ruled Tuesday she was not competent to stand trial.
She is scheduled to return to court Jan. 31, where she is expected to tell the judge that she killed her children. She faces an indeterminate commitment to the state Mental Health Institute.
Neither prosecutors nor the defense lawyer would comment on whether Dietz’s role would affect Amaya’s case, citing the judge’s gag order.
Dietz, of Newport Beach, Calif., and a consultant for “Law & Order,” blamed his testimony in the Texas case on confusion about a conversation with prosecutors. He said they had told him there was an episode with a drowning plot. Harris County, Texas, prosecutors said blaming them was a stretch.
Yates, now 40, had pleaded insanity after drowning her five children in June 2001. She was convicted in three of the drownings. Her lawyers do not expect the reversal to mean she will be freed.
In the Colorado case, Amaya is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Grace Headlee, 4, and Gabriel Amaya, 5 months, on Oct. 16, 2003.
Police say Amaya told them she killed the children after getting a sign from a spider that crawled across her hand but also gave other accounts.